Caecili­us est in Horto

Published Categorised as Books, History, Zines No Comments on Caecili­us est in Horto

If you study Latin in the UK, there’s a very good chance you will use the Cambridge Latin books from the 1970s. Although they’re forty years old, they’re still in print (and also on the Apple Store), and have a special place in people’s hearts. 

They use a combin­a­tion of illus­trated comics with a very distinct­ive art style (which I got the illus­tra­tions for this zine from) and short stor­ies to intro­duce new vocab­u­lary, gram­mar and social history. The thing that makes them stand out from other school text­books is the incred­ibly melo­dra­mat­ic storyline, full of death, assas­sin­a­tions and double entendres. The people who wrote these books were thor­oughly enjoy­ing them­selves.

The Cambridge Latin Course, diges­ted:
(Look away if you don’t want to be spoilered for that five-year Latin course you’re about to embark on)

Book One:

Caecili­us est in horto. This is where he usually is. The hortum is in Pompeii. Caecili­us was a real person, and you can visit his house.
Grumio the chef delights all the slave girls. (And Caecili­us’ wife Metella).
Every­one gets killed by Vesuvi­us, except for Quin­tus the son, and Clem­ens, one of the slaves. The dog gets a tragic death scene

Book Two:

Quin­tus turns up in Roman Britain to visit his cous­in and her dodgy politi­cian husband Salvi­us
We meet King Cogidub­nus, Roman client king and ruler of Sussex
Quin­tus tells the court the tale of his adven­tures in Alex­an­dria:
Clem­ens’ attempts to set up a pottery shop, the ensu­ing run-in with the Egyp­tian Mafia, crocodile wrest­ling, the death of the beau­ti­ful Egyp­tian boy, the plots of the dodgy astro­lo­ger

Book Three:

Salvi­us plots to assas­sin­ate Cogidub­nus as part of a power grab
Cogidub­nus goes on a visit to the water temple at Bath for his health
Salvi­us does a deal with a dodgy priest in Bath to give Cogidub­nus poisoned holy water
Quin­tus uncov­ers the plot and has to go on the run
Cogidub­nus dies of pois­on­ing

Book Four:

Salvi­us is back in Rome- he helps make a plot with dodgy build­er Hateri­us to bump off the famous actor the emperor’s wife is having an affair with

Book Five:

Salvi­us is on trial for forging Cogidub­nus’ will.
Quin­tus turns up as surprise star witness. Salvi­us kills himself in the bath laugh­ing “they’ll never catch me now” (this was an approved end for Roman villains)

Fanzine Ynfytyn 32 + 34

I’ve also got a pack of two clas­sics-related zines on the shop for £2.50. You can find them here.

Issue 34:
24 page 1/​4 sized perz­ine on gold paper about study­ing Clas­sics and Ancient History

  • The Cambridge Latin Course- death by volcano, poisoned holy water or crocodile?
  • Why actu­ally study­ing Clas­sics is noth­ing like Donna Tartt’s novel
  • Roman love poet rundown: Tibul­lus is a soft wet boy
  • I am bad at Medi­ev­al Latin. Don’t worry, so were medi­ev­al monks on the whole.
  • Site visits to Rome, Aquae Sulis, Pompeii, Catul­lus’ house, Fish­bourne Palace and vari­ous Roman grave­yards

Issue 32:
24 page 1/​4 sized perz­ine on purple paper

  • Suspi­cious whis­per­ing
  • The joys of Latin
  • Cogidub­nus
  • Aquar­i­ums
  • Oulipo word games

Site visits:

Bonus: a section from issue 34 I ended up cutting for space

The Palat­ine and Forum – Rome

The Palat­ine is where the Roman Emper­ors had their palaces (hence the name). The Forum still has the ruins of the temples and other build­ings surround­ing it- the scale is huge. I visited mid-Winter when there was prac­tic­ally no-one there, some­thing I highly recom­mend.

However on the same trip my pass­port was stolen in the Vatic­an. To get a tempor­ary pass­port from the UK embassy, we needed a police certi­fic­ate that it was stolen. Whose juris­dic­tion this came under was debat­able however, espe­cially as there are sever­al kinds of police in Italy. 

While chas­ing round differ­ent police stations to get this thing stamped, someone used my pass­port to cross a border. Result­ing in it taking around six months to get a new pass­port, and five or six years of being pulled aside for extra ques­tion­ing every time I trav­elled abroad, even with­in Europe. I have scanned but not yet posted some 1960s slides of the site- they will be here even­tu­ally. 

Caecili­us’ house – Pompeii

Lucius Caecili­us Iucundus was a real person and you can visit his house. It has a mosa­ic doormat with a design of a grey­hound type dog very simil­ar to the dog in the text­book. Pompeii is all dust and endless geomet­ric aven­ues and step­ping stones across the streets. 

The Roman graf­fiti is still in evid­ence and some of the court­yards of the grand houses have been re-planted with same plants that grew there in Roman times. You can see some 1960s slides of neigh­bour­ing Hercu­laneum I scanned here.

Grotte di Catullo – Sirmi­one

This is prob­ably more like the Roman equi­val­ent of a motel rather than the actu­al house of Catul­lus – there’s no strong histor­ic­al evid­ence for the attri­bu­tion, but it’s still a very impress­ive sight, jutting out on a penin­su­lar into Lake Garda. You can see my photos here.

Roman Baths – Bath

Full of steam­ing sulphur­ic water  and defix­iones (curse tablets) fished out from the water wish­ing doom on the rival chari­ot team and the man who stole the writer’s sandals from the chan­ging rooms. The home of Roman reli­gious syncret­ism – dedic­ated to both Celt­ic Sulis and Roman Minerva.

Silchester – Read­ing

Silchester is the could’ve should’ve would’ve been of Roman cities in England. It’s a size­able place, and mostly forgot­ten, apart from Archae­ology students from the Univer­sity of Read­ing going to prac­tice there. My friend Rupinder found a Roman earring on a prac­tice dig. It’s also right next to Alder­ma­s­ton nucle­ar weapons research base. When I used to go there in my univer­sity days, the neigh­bour­ing cottage had llamas in the garden.

Fish­bourne Palace – Chichester

 A luxuri­ous Romano-Brit­ish palace near Southamp­ton. No, King Cogidub­nus was not assas­sin­ated sighs the tour guide wear­ily, after too many people visit who have learnt from the Cambridge Latin Course. You can see my photos here. 

Elab­or­ate mosa­ics, fresco paint­ings and 60s indoor swim­ming pool vibes in the museum.

Chel­lah Roman milit­ary grave­yard in Rabat, Morocco

At last all those lessons on how to read Roman grave­stone abbre­vi­ations are of use! An impress­ive site with a mix of Roman build­ings and later Mara­bout tombs. You can see photos here.

Receive new posts via email. Your data will be kept private.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.